How to Write a Movie Review


Authored by Tucker Cummings in Movies and Television
Published on 03-02-2009

We’ve all heard the saying “Everybody’s a critic,” and that is more true than ever in the Internet age. Anyone can jump on a message board or a movie’s product page on Amazon.com and tell the world what they think any movie. Many writers working today have great difficulty when it comes to writing an insightful movie review. If you want to write a movie review that will stick out, here are a few simple tips that will make all the difference.

1. Know your audience. If most of the people reading your review are just average people, you may not need to be as thorough in your dissection of the movie as you would be if your review was being read by academics or studio execs.

2. Take notes. You can buy a book-light to take into the theater with you, or even a pen that lights up when you press on it. Take notes on everything– the story, the music, the lighting, the reaction of the audience. Your review will be richer and more compelling if you have notes to look back on while you work on your review.

3. Your job is review the movie, not re-enact it. Too many beginning writers fall in to the trap of spending 90% of their article going over the events of the movie. Your readers want to see the movie, not read a transcript of the movie’s dialog. Your review should make only the briefest mention of the movie’s plot. Your review should NEVER contain a synopsis of the entire storyline. Most of all, NEVER EVER include “spoilers” in your review, no matter how old the movie is your are reviewing.

4. Listen to your high school English teacher. Remember in school when you had to write a term paper with a thesis? Your review should have a thesis, too. Make a statement about the movie, and then be prepared to defend it with concrete examples. It isn’t enough to say “You should go see this movie.” You need to convince your reader with specific, compelling evidence, ie “This movie’s innovative use of IMAX technology really added tension to the action sequences. This is one film that really benefits from being seen on a large screen.”

5. Understand the context and genre of the movie. You don’t need a degree in Film Studies to write about movies. However, if you are looking to write an intelligent and dynamic review of a film, you need to understand its context and genre. Tackle the genre first: whether they are watching a romantic comedy or a horror film, people have specific expectations about what to expect. As for the context, in order to write an review of any film, you need to have some background information on the people involved. Is the cast made up of established actors, or fresh faces? What genre is the director usually drawn to? What are the circumstances surrounding the production of this movie? A movie made in Hollywood is completely different from a film made in Tajikistan.

6. Be a critic. Your review should include things that you loved about the movie, as well as things that you think needed improvement. No one trusts a critic that can’t write a balanced review.


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